How to Purée a Pumpkin

We’ve reached that time of year where pumpkins find us around every corner. Whether it be decorations, pies, or lattes, this orange fruit becomes a staple of the season. This year, just before Halloween, we went to Munson Farms here in Boulder and bought four pumpkins. We decided not to carve them this year because we were running short on time, so I quickly painted them with simple designs. However, it seemed like it would be a waste to ONLY use them for decoration, so I decided to purée them.

A glass of wine is nice to have, too!

Puréeing a pumpkin isn’t difficult, but it is pretty time consuming. However, it’s totally worth it in the end to have some fresh pumpkin to cook with.

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Wash your pumpkin. Since ours was from a farm, it had some dirt on it, plus I wanted to get the paint off.

3) Using a serrated knife, cut open the pumpkin and scoop out the insides. You can use a spoon, but a scraper tool from a pumpkin carving kit is a bit easier. Save the seeds! They’re delicious when roasted. Take a peek at my recipe.

What my pumpkin looks like when done.

4) Cut the pumpkin into smaller pieces, roughly 6” by 6”, and discard the stem. I just find them easier to handle later if I can actually hold them in my hands comfortably. Some of mine end up being triangular, too.

5) Place the pieces meat-side down on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. You don’t have to use parchment paper, but I find clean-up much easier when I do.

6) Bake for about an hour. You want the pumpkin to be tender when poked with a fork, or tender enough to eat (which you can do!)

7) Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let cool. You want to be able to easily handle the pumpkin directly with your hands and not burn yourself.

8) Scrape the pumpkin away from the skin and discard the skin.

9) Blend up the pumpkin. I use an immersion blender because of how easy it is to clean, but you can also use a normal blender or a food processor. I also like to do mine in smaller batches in the measuring cup that came with our immersion blender because I can get a more even consistency, but if you don’t mind a little chunkiness, you can just do it in a bowl.

So much moisture!

10) Using a strainer lined with cheesecloth, drain your pumpkin. Depending on how much you have you may have to do it in smaller batches (I do this). If you’ve got a ton of time, you can just let the purée sit and drain, stirring it occasionally, but I usually just want to finish and squeeze the cheesecloth to more quickly remove the excess water. Some people save this pumpkin juice, but I haven’t ever done that. Maybe next year ;) Squeeze/drain the purée until you’ve got your desired consistency.

11) If you’ve got superhuman stamina, go ahead and start baking/cooking! Otherwise store the pumpkin. I like to use freezer-safe bags and put one cup of purée in each. That way I can freeze the pumpkin, and then thaw just what I need when I need it.

You can use this purée in pies, cookies, bread, soups, hummus, and more! Happy holiday cooking!

Halloween Traditions: Part 3

I know Halloween is sort of over, but now it's time for the yummiest part of my Halloween traditions - pumpkins seeds!

When you're carving out your pumpkins, be sure to save those seeds. Get them mostly clean by separating them from the other pumpkin guts, then rinse them in the sink - I use a colander and just spray them down with water. Once they are clean, you can either refrigerate them (this is a nice option if you're tired from carving your pumpkin), or start cooking them! This recipe does take a while, so sometimes it's nice to not be up super late finishing your seeds.

You can make separate batches (especially when you carve a ton of pumpkins), and try out different seasonings. You can do plain salt, cinnamon sugar, or something more spicy, like cayenne and cumin (my favorite). I'm looking forward to trying some herbs at some point, too!

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spread your seeds out in a layer on a cookie sheet.
  2. Slowly, pour 1.5 tablespoons of melted butter over the seeds.
  3. Sprinkle your seasonings over the seeds.
  4. Use a spoon or spatula to mix the seeds around on the cookie sheet to get a more even coating on all the seeds. Gently shake the cookie sheet to distribute the layer of seeds again.
  5. Repeat 3 and 4 until your seeds have your desired amount of seasoning.
  6. Put the seeds in the oven for 1.5 hours, stirring around like step 4 every 20 minutes or so. Around an hour, you can start tasting your seeds for done-ness.
  7. Once you're satisfied with your seeds, take them out, let them cool, and enjoy!

I've noticed that some ovens behave a bit differently than others. I've successfully made the seeds at 300 degrees instead (checking more frequently), and also scorched some because I didn't check often enough, even though the oven was only at 250.

What are your favorite spices for pumpkin seeds? I'm always up for exciting new flavors!

I hope everyone had a fun Halloween - now to figure out what i want to be for next year... :)


Halloween Traditions: Part 1

Halloween has always been a fun time for me - mostly because there is ample opportunity to be creative. Today's post is about pumpkins!

There's nothing quite like visiting the pumpkin patch, and in Colorado, you're bound to see all sorts of weather. The past two years was rainy, but this year when we went it was gorgeous and crisp, with some amazing clouds. We like to go to Munson Farms. They've also got squash and produce.

Picking out your pumpkin can be difficult. Each pumpkin is bound to have imperfections, so it's nice to know what you'll be carving before you go, so you can find one you think will fit your design.

Growing up, my pumpkin carving was typically a face made of simple shapes like triangles - nice and easy, right? They always turned out okay, and I was happy. But I always wondered how some of those people did those crazy, intricate pumpkins if they were just using kitchen knives! I have to thank Nathaniel and his family for introducing me to pumpkin carving tools, which I had NO IDEA existed until a few years ago. Crazy, right?

Well, my pumpkin carving went to a whole new level (not that it's amazing, but definitely a bit more detailed). Here are some pumpkins from the past few years:

Here are my pumpkin carving steps:

Pumpkin carving tools from left to right: Pokey tool to stencil your design, scraper for scraping out pumpkin guts, and little saw for intricate designs.

  1. Take the top off your pumpkin, probably using a normal knife. Have a notch somewhere in the circle, so you know the right way to fit the top back on when you're all done.
  2. Scrape out the inside as good as possible. Don't throw away the seeds! They are delicious (you can refrigerate them and save them for later, too)! If you're looking to make a gory or gross pumpkin, you can save the pumpkin guts, too.
  3. Draw your design on the pumpkin either using the pokey tool or a sharpie/pen. I prefer the pokey tool, because I don't like any sharpie marks left on my pumpkin once I'm done.
  4. Using the small saw, carve the pumpkin! This little saw is what allows you to do the more intricate details that a kitchen knife just can't. It might take a long time, and you might get tired of it, but your pumpkin will look great!
  5. Wash off your pumpkin, go outside, and put a candle in it!
This year's pumpkin! Cinderella's Castle :)

This year's pumpkin! Cinderella's Castle :)

Here are some other tips I've come up with to help with your pumpkin carving:

  • If you've chosen a super intricate design with lots of thin lines, wait until the last minute to carve your pumpkin. I've seen beautiful designs that have wilted quite quickly and don't make it to Halloween night. Nathaniel once made a Homer Simpson pumpkin that turned into an angry Homer quite quickly, and then collapsed within a couple days.
  • Use toothpicks to put pieces back on that you didn't mean to cut off. You'll be happy to have them around, I promise.

Also, it can be super fun to do this with friends! We had a pumpkin party, which turned out to be awesome!

Have fun with your pumpkin! It can be an awesome, traditional Jack-O-Lantern, or you can do something completely silly. As long as you're happy, it'll turn out great.